History of kitesurfing

Since the beginning of time, humanity wanted to expand and conquer all the resouces of the earth. The first to be dominated was the terrestrial environment, where human life mostly develops and for which we are better adapted. Then they wanted to dominate the aquatic environment, which limited land movement but, at the same time, provided food. In the aquatic environment, a partial adaptation was possible due to the ability of the human to swim and navigate above it, allowing it to move towards new horizons hitherto unattainable, and more quickly than simply on foot. The last medium to be reached was air. This has generated a fascination for humanity, but at the same time, a great challenge due to its difficult accessibility. It is said that the first contact that man had with the air environment is none other than the kite. The origins of the kite are somewhat confusing, but it is generally considered that these are in China, more than two thousand years ago, when a farmer tied his hat to prevent it from flying away because of the strong wind and saw that it was flying but that he could control it with said rope. We will never know if this anecdote is true, but we can affirm that the use of the kite had a strong development in Asia. The first written document where a reference is made to a kite is found in a text from the 2nd century BC, where the Chinese general Han Hsin, of the Han dynasty, flew a kite over the city walls that he was attacking in order to do so. know the distance your troops had to overcome. From then on, we have evidence that kites were given new uses, being the war purpose one of the most exploited, since in ancient cultures, seeing something flying was perceived as an almost supernatural phenomenon, which imposed fear of town invaded and generated submission, as it demonstrated the technical superiority of those who were capable of building and handling such artifacts. Chinese merchants were in charge of spreading the use of the kite throughout Asia and each territory developed its own kites with characteristics different from the others. About 1500 A.D. It has been documented that in India kites were used to make people fly, reaching the point that in Japan it was tried to be used by a thief to steal the golden statue that was at the top of a tower. The passion and curiosity for flying was so great that kite flying became popular in Japan during the Edo dynasty, to the point that the population with social class lower than that of samurai was allowed to practice kite flying and arriving to the extent that the Edo government later wanted to discourage and reduce because “too many people were without their mind focused on work”.

The origins of kitesurfing

To look for the origins of this sport, it is necessary to look at the first uses of kites for transport and movement over the water, to see them, one has to go back to the China of the thirteenth century. At that time, kites were used as a propulsion method for transportation, to increase the speed and stability of canoes and boats, generally for river use. This function of kites was not only developed by the Chinese, but it also spread throughout Asia and even reached areas of Oceania such as Micronesia where they used them to fish. It should be noted that, with Marco Polo’s trips to Asia, he introduced kites in Europe, but they were not very well received. In 1826 the English inventor George Pocock began to investigate the transport of charges by kite and developed and patented the “Charvolant” which was nothing more than a chariot with two kites with lines of 450m in length. This is considered to be the first appearance of the kite as more than just a toy in the Western world. This buggy was the fastest land transport method of the moment since it reached 20 miles per hour and it was improved by introducing a control bar with four connected lines

The biggest problem with the “Charvolant” was its difficult control and that greatly slowed its use and development. During World War I Samuel Franklin Cody designed kites to carry people and called them “people-sustaining kites” that served as an alternative to the hot air balloons of the time, although they clearly had less success than these. Although it should be noted that with this invention he was able to cross the English Channel, which is a great milestone since it is an area of ​​strong winds and large currents. During the 1970s, with the emergence of new lightweight materials, but with great resistance such as Kevlar and Spectra, the efficiency and durability of kite materials could be greatly increased. In 1977 in the Netherlands, the inventor Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise obtained the patent for kitesurfing, which he defined as a water sport where an individual is propelled by a kite or paraglider on top of a floating board. This is the first definition of kitesurfing as it is known today. In the mid-eighties, the French brothers Bruno and Dominique Legaignoux began to devise the first prototypes of inflatable kites and developed the Wipika brand. During the nineties he continued the development of kitesurfing with Corey Roesler with his kite ski (water) that was designed in part by his father George Roesler – who was a Boeing engineer – and simultaneously Laird Hamilton promoted the practice of kitesurfing in Maui, Hawaii. The biggest problem with the first prototypes was that they could only sail downwind (direction where the wind is taking you) and they did not allow upwind and thus avoid drifting and not being able to return to the starting point. It was not until 1998 that Lou Wainman managed to sail towards windward (direction from which the wind blows) in Hawaii and had the ability to do the first “tricks”, a fact that captivated many and attracted the attention of the nautical industry for its great visual appeal, which allowed the increase in investment and the birth of kitesurfing as a sport with many more practitioners and not a thing of a few pioneers.




Since then, mainly the manufacturers of sails and windsurfing boards also began to market kites and kitesurfing boards. The relationship between windsurfing and kitesurfing is said to be one of sibling rivalry. They share a medium, they share a passion for the sea and in most places where one sport is practiced, the other is also practiced. The problem is that there are not many adequate spaces for the practice of both sports, with strong and sustained winds and with an adequate swell to allow the jumps, glides on the waves and the pirouettes that its practitioners try to execute. For this reason, windsurfers and kitesurfers are often forced to share spaces and it is easy for tensions and problems of “coexistence” between athletes of the two sports to occur. In the last years of kitesurfing, the appearance of the hydrofoil stands out. This accessory consists of a supporting element located on the fin of the board (in the submerged part) that allows the board to rise, leaving the surface of the water (only the hydrofoil being submerged), so that the kitesurf “flies ”Above the water, greatly reducing drag, allowing you to navigate at high speeds with lighter winds. One of the latest products launched on the market by the kitesurfing and windsurfing industry is a hybrid between these two called wingfoil or wing surfer (being a completely new product, each manufacturer has baptized it with a different name) that consists of a kite shaped like bird wings that instead of being tied with ropes and at a distance from the athlete, it is held directly with the pilot’s hands.

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